By far the most common question we are asked when we tell people about our plans to travel for a year is “Where are you going to go?” There are so many places we want to go – and already we are realizing that while a year is a long time, it is not nearly long enough to see the world. We also have no desire to rush through our trip, feeling exhausted while we check cities and countries off the list. One of the biggest pieces of advice I’ve come across over and over on travel blogs geared toward the RTW (Round The World) traveler is to s l o w d o w n . No one ever wishes in retrospect that they had traveled more quickly!
The list below is an overview of regions and countries that we are currently considering for this trip. We’ve already made a few tough decisions – for instance, no part of Central or South America is listed below. There are a million places in those regions I would love to go (in fact, we almost planned a shorter trip to Uruguay a few years ago), but we’ve decided that part of the world will have to wait for future travel.
There is no way we’ll make it to all of these countries during 2015, and we might scrap some of these plans altogether in favor of others, but this is a good place to start.
Right now one of these two countries is our most talked about starting point. At the moment, we are both leaning towards New Zealand. The idea is that we would fly to Auckland, rent a van, and road-trip around the country for a month. Ideally we’d do this on a stopover flight before heading somewhere in Asia.
Southeast Asia: Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, The Philippines
We certainly can’t backpack around the world without spending some time in SEA. Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos are all quite popular on the backpacking circuit and I’m sure we can have a blast spending a few weeks/months in any of these counties. James visited Jakarta last year for business, and is interested in going back to Indonesia to explore Bali and Sumatra. I’ve also heard good things about The Philippines, and it’s said to be less crowded with Western backpackers than some of the other countries in this region, though a bit more expensive.
I am very excited by the idea of trekking in the Himalayas, and hopefully I can convince James it is something we should do, especially after our recent one-night Yosemite expedition (more on that soon!).
James has expressed a lot of interest in visiting India. I keep reading that “India is extremely frustrating and extremely rewarding.” Personally, I like the sound of lazing on the beach in Goa and trying food from different regions of the country.
Taiwan is a must, so that I can “eat all the dumplings”, as I frequently insist. James had a 24-hour stopover in Taipei on a business trip last year, and my jealously still hasn’t waned. My dad raves about Hong Kong. China will be more of a challenge with the visa, but we have a friend who is currently living in Shanghai and we love when we can visit people abroad. The more time I can spend eating dumplings, the better. Beijing is also a great starting point for the famous Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian trains.
Russia (and Mongolia?)
I have been obsessed with Russian literature and history for the better part of my life. James and I are also looking forward to riding one of the cross-country railways – probably the Trans-Mongolian westbound. I keep telling James that the only way to really visit Russia is in the winter – but he’s not very keen on this idea.
This area has such a complex history and is constantly evolving. The more I read about Bulgaria, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania…the more I want to go. There’s an incredible amount to discover in the Balkans, like Communist ruins, interesting cities and beautiful landscapes.
North Africa: Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt
We tried to visit Tunisia in 2012, but terrorist attacks in the region thwarted us. On this trip, we will definitely make it to either Morocco or Tunisia so we can visit the Sahara Desert, including decaying sets from the filming of Star Wars. I’d also love to go to Egypt to practice my Egyptian-dialect Arabic. Seeing the pyramids and sailing down the Nile both sound pretty good too.
Lebanon is considered by many to be the most “liberal” county in the Middle East. I can’t wait to go there for the food. Jordan is home to wonders like Petra and Wadi Rum.
I wish that I could include Syria in this section too. Just a few years ago Damascus, one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, was a wonderful place to visit and considered ideal for students looking to study Arabic abroad. Now, their civil war is likely going to make it pretty impossible to visit for quite some time.
On our previous European travels, we haven’t managed to make it to Scotland, and James is very interested in spending at least a month living in Edinburgh. With highland hikes and Scotch drinking, not to mention all of the festivals, I’m sure we can keep ourselves entertained.
If we can make the money last, we would love to spend the last few months of our travels on a cross-country American road trip. My love for road trips run deep, and as much as I want to explore around the world, America is an amazing and diverse place and I feel that I’ve seen so little of it. This post was written for foreign travelers, but is a great reminder of some of the perks and amenities anyone who travels in the U.S. gets to enjoy. If we can make it happen, we would stay with friends and family around the country, visit lots of national and state parks, and go to as many baseball games as money allowed!
Like I said, this list is a rough draft and I’m sure our actual trip itinerary will end up different. Another one of our goals for the trip is to be as flexible as possible – we don’t want to have the whole route planned out in advance. There are some major places we want to make it to, and some places (China, Russia) that will require a decent amount of advance planning, but my hope is to be able to let go of a lot of the planning. I am a major planner, but right now my “planning” is mainly just research in the form of reading a lot of travel blogs and resources about places we want to visit. I save everything that catches my eye on Evernote and Pinterest. There is so much information on the internet. There is also so much we can’t learn or understand until we are actually on the road. For now, I will keep reading and planning and dreaming to get me through the months until we can get out there ourselves!